GREASE SPOT

Our correspondent goes nuts as she takes on a Beetle and a Merc in a workshop

Written by Jaskiran Kapoor | Published:March 8, 2009 4:57 pm

Our correspondent goes nuts as she takes on a Beetle and a Merc in a workshop
Where are your dungarees?” asked Satinder Singh Sarkaria of Apex Motors as he pointed to my mint-fresh top and corduroy pants. I realised why he had asked me that as I walked past mangled pieces of machinery and men in blue overalls smeared with paint and grease. Nevertheless,I headed to apply for the post of a makeshift mechanic.

Apex motors in Industrial Area,Chandigarh,is not just a car workshop but also a vintage restoration hub. Beauties are rolled in from all over the country for a revamp,which can take between a month and a year,depending on the work involved. Sarkaria showed me an electric red Chevrolet Fleetmaster,an absolutely delightful Morris Minor and the latest entrant,190 Evo. “This one’s from the limited edition of 500 the world over,” he said.

My tour ended and I was brought down to the grind with my first lesson. With a blaze torch in the right hand and a soldering wire in my left,I had to weld two metal pieces together. Even though I was anxious about the sparks burning my corduroy,I succeeded in not only averting the fashion disaster but also welded the two pieces in one go! I almost felt like Dilip Chhabria (any offence caused is purely coincidental)!

In the meantime,a 1971 Mercedes had huffed and puffed its way in. But the grand sedan was denied the luxury of a makeover. Its parts were to be used as —hold your breath—spare parts for a plebian four-wheeler. Sarkaria had one look at the cracked carcass and got down to unscrew the tyres. Two small jacks were brought in to lift the beauty. But before

we knew,it lost its balance. So a bigger jack took the load and bingo—we removed the tyres!

My next target was a 1950 Jeep that was being scrubbed and filled for dents and cracks. “Run your hand on the vehicle,if you feel the surface uneven,fill it with this,” said a mechanic,as he showed me a bucket filled with a gooey,grey substance called “surfacer”. With a sandpaper in one hand and a cloth in the other,I filled a dent,felt it for evenness (or lack of it),and repeated the task across the car. It looked as easy as running a paint-brush across a canvas but it was a gruelling task. As the surface of the car got smoother,my hands got drier and rougher.

Scraping done,I wiped off my sweat and hoped for a breather. Wishful thinking. In came a blood-red Beetle Volkswagon that was waiting to be revved up with a brand new engine. “We’ll install in it a four-cylinder Maruti Gypsy engine,” said Vaibhav,an auto engineer. So,we had to dismantle the Gypsy engine,remove each part from it and clean them with wire brush,petrol,soap and cloth. The cleaning part was actually quite dirty,thanks to the petrol.

There was a sound for lunch,and everyone took a break while I looked at my grease-smudged hands. “The car will take a couple of days,” said Vaibhav. The engine is like the heart—once in,it’s attached to other parts through an artery-vein network of pipes and wires.
At the end of it,my head was as jumbled as the distorted pieces of wires,steel and iron in the workshop. Still,that one look from that shining Beetle,and it was enough to make me come back the next day.

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